learn a language online

Tips for Learning a New Language

When you’re learning a second or third language, vocabulary is often taught as a combination of lists of words and exposure to the language through texts and conversations. However, beyond the first few hundred words, vocabulary is learnt better through exposure to the language, such as speaking or reading in the language. Experts say that to be able to speak a language well you need a vocabulary of 2500 words, so this takes quite a lot of exposure! 

The most popular second language in Canada, spoken in both business and leisure contexts, is French. French is also the primary language of several cities and states, and is one of the national languages of Canada. If you’d like to learn more about Canadian French, see our comparison between European and Canadian French (link to other blog). 

The difference between learning English and a second language in Canada is that levels of exposure to English are generally much higher – we are exposed to English in books, TV, Hollywood movies, international music and in most everyday situations. This is not the case with most second languages, which is part of the reason why learning them is often a much more lengthy process. However, there are ways that you can get around this!


Here are a few tips and tricks to increase your exposure to a second language:

  • Read magazines or online articles in the target language – in topics that interest you!
  • Read books in the target language, again on topics that interest you
  • Watch movies and series in the target language
  • Watch YouTube videos – music, cartoons, short movies, anything!
  • Read cartoons and comics in the target language
  • Listen to music in the target language
  • Speak to people in the target language


A few ways to aid learning another include:

  • Learning lists of words by saying them out aloud – limit this though, as it quickly becomes repetitive
  • Sticking labels or post-its on everyday objects
  • When reading, look up any new words in a bilingual dictionary or on Google translate. (Keep in mind that Google translate can be inaccurate for full sentences, but is great for single-word translations)
  • Practice breaking up words into smaller, more understandable parts – many words are a combination of several smaller words. Learn to identify these to help you understand new words more easily
  • Use language-learning software to make learning fun and accessible wherever you are. This can be a program you buy online, or an app on your phone


After you’ve learned the basics of the language, you can challenge yourself to improve even more by:

  • Study synonym pairs to quickly enhance your vocabulary
  • Study prefixes and suffixes for the same reason
  • Keep a diary in the target language
  • Learn a word of the day


Another important part of learning a second language is having the confidence to speak it, even if you make mistakes. There are a few things you can do to help you with this:

  • Learn phrases you can use in everyday conversation to quickly spark small talk
  • Practice your listening with casual conversations, asking people about their day, and listening exercises
  • Remember that you don’t need to speak the language perfectly to converse – you can ask for help at any point, or slip in an English word if they’re unsure of the right one in your target language
  • Make learning fun, rather than scary! Play games in the language, and build on what you already know
  • Repeat topics of conversation until you get comfortable discussing them
  • Remember that it will get easier, the more they practice. And practice make sure you practice!


As with anything else, learning a language takes time. Remember to make it fun and engaging, and to celebrate your small victories.


Written by Tessa Cooper, BrightSparkz Staff & Blog Writer